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Glenn Keys, ACT

Business and philanthropic leader

Australian of the Year 2015, Australian Capital Territory

Glenn Keys is a business and philanthropic leader who has used his own foundation to address Indigenous health issues and to provide greater opportunities for young people with disabilities.

Glenn Keys
Glenn Keys, business and philanthropic leader, Australian Capital Territory. Photo: Brendan J Doyle, Broken Yellow.

Glenn Keys believes in giving back. A former Australian Defence Force test flight engineer, and currently managing director of global healthcare provider, Aspen Medical, Glenn puts corporate social responsibility at the heart of his business. The company has its own foundation, which uses a percentage of Aspen’s profits to tackle major Australian health issues, particularly in Indigenous communities. As the parent of a child with an intellectual disability, Glenn is passionate about helping people with disability reach their potential. Glenn is the Chairman of Special Olympics ACT and, in that role, has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for athletes with a disability to develop physical fitness, gain skills and forge friendships.

An inaugural board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Glenn’s latest project is Project Independence, a housing initiative in partnership with the Australian Capital Territory Government that offers home ownership options for people with a disability. Glenn is an active member of the Canberra Business Chamber, and aims to inspire other business leaders to incorporate community service into their professional lives.


Glenn Keys has chosen a handmade candle. Glenn and his wife, Amelda (Mel), lit this candle at their wedding and at the baptisms of each of their three children, Siân, Ehren and Tim. The candle is kept wrapped in a cloth given to the couple by Glenn’s parents, in a box provided by close family friends.

An open lidded box, a candle and a small towel.
Handmade candle, with presentation box and cloth. On loan from Glenn Keys. Photo: George Serras.

Light and life

'As a boy I made candles and sold them as one of my first businesses. I have always liked candles and feel that they provide a sense of warmth and hope, with the flame representing light and life … Our wedding date is shown on the front, and our children’s names and their baptism dates are shown on the back.'

Inspired in a dream

'I had spoken to my wife and several work colleagues about what artefact I would use for this display, without any object capturing my requirements. I awoke the next morning having dreamt that the candle represented all the elements of my life that have brought me to this moment.'

Family, service and the future

'I have a strong sense of family, so I wanted something that represents my wife and each of our children. I also wanted to represent the fact that the success of my business, Aspen Medical, has allowed me to actively pursue my desire for philanthropy and service. Finally, I wanted something that represented a positive outlook for the future. This candle and its container do that.'

Transcript of video

Jeremy Lasek: Being the home town boy I guess, Glenn Keys, if you would like to come forward. Glenn has the home ground advantage [applause]. Glenn, I am sure most of you know, is the ACT Australian of the year. He is running an amazing business. His business Aspen Medical is there on the front line tackling the Ebola virus, and that is remarkable. But Glenn as important as that is not only to you, your business but also to the world, you have bigger fish to fry in terms of back here in Australia and doing remarkable things for people with disabilities.

Glenn Keys: Thank you. It’s certainly something that has been a big part of my life now. Since our son Ehrin was born we have been heavily involved in disability support and services. That's led us from being initially involved with the Down Syndrome Association and then through things like Special Olympics and then Project Independence, which is quite a unique housing option for people with an intellectual disability, and now through to the NDIS.

Jeremy Lasek: It is tremendous work and again, as with all the finalists, you are making remarkable progress. I don't know if you are a romantic at heart, Glenn, but your object is something related to your marriage, your wedding, but also clearly to your family.

Glenn Keys: It is. Family is an incredibly strong aspect of my life, my family, my parents, my grandparents but particularly now my close family. I was trying to find something that would represent a number of aspects, family being one of them. So it is a candle that was made for my wife and I when we were married. But I really wanted something that would bring in our children as well. On the back of the candle is the names of each of the children and the day they were baptised, and we lit the candle at their baptism as well.

Part of what I wanted to bring was that I think my business, which you spoke about, has given me the wherewithal to be able to pursue some of these activities. I am a big believer that business is a part of community and has to give back, and you can do that from the smallest entity. One thing I did - I have been doing lots of businesses since I was a kid – and my very first business was making and selling candles. So I thought the idea of the candle brought in the business aspect as well as that very close family aspect.

Jeremy Lasek: Ladies and gentlemen, he arrived back from Dubai this morning specifically to be here. Glenn, great to see you and thank you for being here.

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